Design Critique: AllTrails

AllTrails provides trail maps for a variety of activities all over the world, primarily focused on hiking and walking, but offering nearly 20 different types of activity trails. In addition to the navigation capabilities, AllTrails also enables detailed user reviews, building a ‘community’ of users. Let’s take a trip through AllTrails!

Searching for a hike

Sorting and Filtering Trails: When a user first searches for hiking trails, there are clear signifiers across the top of the screen indicating how users can filter their search on specific criteria, such as activity type, trail difficulty, trail length, and many more. However, there is somewhat of a false affordance between the filters a user can apply to their search and the attributes on which they can actually sort their search. Based on the clear signifiers for filtering options, a user might naturally anticipate that they are able to sort by these same options as well, yet that is not the case. Users are only able to sort by best match, most popular, closest, and newly added, and none of the filtering criteria around difficulty, length, etc. The mismatch between filter and sorting criteria could be easily resolved by including the filtering options as a way to sort as well.

Saving a Map: In order to have access to a map while outside, where users may not have cell service or data, users must save the map to their phone, but the process to do this is not the most discoverable. At first glance, each of the trail cards has a little save icon in the top right-hand corner which seems like the obvious place to save a map; however, when clicked, this save button only saves the trail listing itself and not the map. In order to get the map, a user must click into a trail listing, then click into the small map picture in the bottom right-hand corner, and then press ‘download map’. Additionally, when pressing “download” in the free version, there is a pop up indicating this feature is only for premium users and it appears as if the map is not saved to the save folder as there is no feedback showing it is downloading. Yet, if a user then navigates to the saved maps folder, they will find that the map has indeed been downloaded. This experience could be improved both by enabling the saving of the trail listing and map at the same time as well as providing a download progress bar for feedback to show that the map is actually being saved to the user’s phone.

Reading Reviews: One of the key benefits of using AllTrails is the user “community” reviews that accompany each trail listing. From the home page, these reviews are quite discoverable by clicking on the clearly labeled “community” tab at the bottom of the screen. That said, the reviews feature becomes significantly less discoverable depending on how users approach their trail search. When a user clicks into a trail listing from the main menu, they simply have to scroll down on that listing to find the trail reviews. However, when a user clicks into a trail from their ‘saved maps’ location, they must open up a sliding menu, then click into the main trail overview card, and then scroll down to the reviews. Moreover, without having prior knowledge that the reviews are located in the trail overview card, a user might miss out on this feature altogether. AllTrails can increase the discoverability of reviews from the ‘saved maps’ card by adding a ‘reviews’ button within the slide up menu.  

Taking a hike

Tracking a Hike: The user experience of taking a hike is quite clear, with a strong mappability between the navigation arrow representing the user on the walk and the user’s actions in the world. When a user begins a walk, a large arrow displays on the map, pointing in the same direction that the user is facing. As the user progresses on their walk, the arrow follows exactly where they walk and even responds to small changes in direction. This precision enables users to follow their trail with little room for error.


Despite some of the critiques above, it’s not entirely surprising that AllTrails was named Apple’s 2023 iPhone App of the Year. The visceral response upon opening the app is that of cleanliness and calmness – almost reflecting the tranquility you can expect to find on one of the trails in nature. The application overall has high discoverability around the key features, supports a variety of customization around user specific goals, and has clear mappability. 

  • Norman, D. (2013). The Design of Everyday Things: Revised & Expanded Edition. Basic Books.
  • AllTrails application. AllTrails. (n.d.). Retrieved February 4, 2024, from
  • AllTrails. (2018, August 28). AllTrails gives trail users peace of mind with launch of Lifeline. PR Newswire: press release distribution, targeting, monitoring and marketing.